With an aging population, a rise in chronic diseases and ever-increasing health care costs, medical device and biopharma businesses require innovation, collaboration and forward thinking from their suppliers.
Couple these trends with a crushing pressure for COVID-19 vaccine development and delivery, and it is no surprise that Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont Co. is investing heavily in both capital and capacity at its Hemlock, Mich., manufacturing plant for its Liveo brand of silicone medical products.
"Devices are becoming smaller, easier to use, with more digital functionality," said Diana Salvadori, Americas marketing leader with Liveo Healthcare. "Silicones play an important role in providing high purity, biocompatible, inherently flexible material solutions. Over the last decade, biologics have experienced significant growth — and with COVID-19 there has been increased pressure on vaccine development and demand. We have a proven track record working with our customers to successfully develop innovative solutions to help patients live healthier and more convenient lives."
Plans for the investment in Liveo Healthcare were released late in 2020, but DuPont has not disclosed how much it intends to spend.
Upgrades at the facility include extrusion capacity expansion for tubing, a new ISO 7 clean room and ongoing elastomer capacity expansions with new mixing equipment for liquid silicone rubber and high-consistency rubber.
"These significant investments in both capital and resources strengthen the strategic capabilities of our Liveo Healthcare silicones," Salvadori said. "To support customer growth and accelerate new product introductions, these targeted investments include increasing supply capacities with manufacturing improvements."
Derived from the terms "live" and "to be alive," the Liveo product line is used in the medical device, biopharma processing and pharma solutions markets.
The Liveo product line includes LSR and HCR medical-grade elastomers, soft skin and pressure-sensitive adhesives and device coatings. Specifically, Liveo silicone adhesives are used in a relatively new type of wearable that offers gentle release (removal) with reduced skin irritation for the patient. In addition, these adhesives can be used in applications that target diseases, provide pain management and treat neurological disorders.
"Our dedicated research team collaborates with manufacturers worldwide to create medical devices — including smart devices that share data between patients and doctors — that empower patients and promote independence," Salvadori said. "From drug delivery and monitoring devices to short- and long-term implantables and IV ports, our materials advance medical technology to create more positive patient outcomes."
For the transfer of separated biopharma actives, Liveo's high-purity, low-permeability silicone tubing provides low extractables and high resistance to leaching. For fluid transfer processes, Liveo produces custom-molded tubing assemblies for high-purity fluid transfer, reduced risk of leakage and cross-contamination, and lower cleaning costs.
DuPont Liveo Simethicone and emulsions are used in oral drug delivery systems for gastrointestinal applications.
"DuPont Liveo is 100 percent focused on health care," Salvadori said. "A lot of our competitors serve multiple other industries — we only do health care. We follow the legacy of Dow Corning, which started innovating the use of silicon in medical applications in the 1950s. We kept on inventing and innovating and applying this technology."
With a wealth of data, expertise and materials science at its disposal, DuPont Liveo said it can provide guidance to customers.
"With an understanding of regulatory approvals processes, we are able to support customers with the testing, data and application-based scientific know-how to facilitate their device and drug approvals," she said.
Salvadori said that while medical market segments that support the diagnostics and treatment of COVID-19 have seen a big increase in demand, other medical spaces still are lagging.
"In other areas, where devices were used in elective surgeries or doctor visits, areas impacted by the various stay-at-home and work-from-home orders we have seen across the globe, they are in decline. Research and development has increased focus on solving the challenges associated with the pandemic crisis, and this has shifted short-term priorities for some of our customers to COVID-19 related programs and delayed others," Salvadori said.
Looking ahead to 2021, DuPont Liveo said it remains hopeful for an improved — and healthier — year. Research and development is resuming, the company said, and other medical device and drug development areas are returning to pre-pandemic levels.
And vaccine approvals and rollouts now are shifting from development to production and supply.
"We are working in close collaboration with our key customers to help support and drive their leadership in key health care industry market segments," said Eugenio Toccalino, DuPont Liveo Healthcare global business director. "Without question, these investments in the future of health care will help strengthen and grow the value of our DuPont Liveo brand health care silicone solutions. We believe that DuPont Healthcare will have a positive impact on every level of the health care industry value chain."
DuPont Liveo is part of the DuPont Transportation and Industrial business unit, which operates in the transportation, aerospace, electronics, health care, industrial and consumer markets.